The Psychology of Cult TV Shows

What generates the sense of belonging among strangers who happen to watch the same TV show?  Why do people seek to emulate their favourite sci-fi heroes and villains through cosplay?  And why do we often empathise with fictional inhabitants of a fantasy world more than we do actual people in the real world?

Questions such as these are explored in this fascinating Wondercon panel discussion, bringing together psychologists, actors and writers alike.

Sensory Illusions and the Taste of Food

Ever wondered why Heineken tastes a little sweeter than some other comparable beers?  It could be the recipe, it could be the way it’s brewed.  But equally, it could just be those nice happy letter “E’s” in the product name.  In this interesting talk, scientist Alejandro Salgado-Montejo explores the complex nature of sensory information and how changing seemingly unrelated characteristics of the food we eat and the environment in which we eat it (shape, texture, lighting, music) might make a major difference to our sense of taste.


Beware Neuro-Bunk

Neuromarketing is controversial to say the least.  The very idea that marketers might turn to neuroscience in order to develop brands and products that are more appealing is seen as innovation to some, but sinister and manipulative to others.  Of course, many of the criticisms the field attracts actually apply to marketing research generally, rather than that which involves neuroscience, but we must be as mindful of misperceptions as we are accurate and valid concerns.


How we choose to present our data is absolutely crucial.  The press may love a quick headline announcing that scientists have “proven” that watching Doctor Who increases your tolerance to alcohol on the basis of some obscure bit of biology, we all know it’s just stuff-and-nonsense – an attention-grabbing claim made based on a throw-away remark taken completely out of context.

In this timely and entertaining talk, neuroscientist Molly Crockett explores the issue of data presentation and exaggerated claims in neuromarketing research – a talk that all begins with the secret of happiness and a humble cheese sandwich.


Pig hairs in your toast?

You may not eat pork, but you’d be amazed at the 180+ products a single pig can still find its way into, from the toiletries you use every morning to the beer you drink in the pub tonight.  Christien Meindertsma, author of Pig 05049 explains all.

Nature made us advertisers

ethanWhat can the world of marketing learn from nature?  To explore this question, advertising executive Ethan Decker draws on his former training as an ecologist we’re all ‘evolved advertisers’ at heart, thanks to natural and sexual selection.

Facing Reality – 1950s style

frIn the days before online course sites, social media and the dreaded PowerPoint, text book publishers resorted to often ingenious means to support students and enhance sales of their products.  To mark my own forthcoming first lecture on Freud for some time, here is a wonderfully quirky example from the 1950s of how McGraw-Hill supported a chapter on defence mechanisms in Psychology for Living by Sorenson and Malm.  Enjoy!

Sex and Gender in Society

WindGoodfriendIn both the natural and social sciences, precision in the definition of key variables is everything, yet one massively important variable is often ill-defined, with an almost cavalier tendency to use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably when, in fact, they are fundamentally different constructs.  In this short-but-informative video, Dr Wind Goodfriend (Beuna Vista University) offers an overview of the main distinctions between these particular characteristics and reminds us that, whichever we are discussing, there are more than two categories to consider.

Brand Success

w&zIn this short video from the consultancy GfK, brand management experts John Wittenbraker and Helen Zeitoun introduce the growing role of behavioural economics in marketing research and show how use of just a few basic concepts can have a significant positive impact on brand equity and market share.

Markets and Mortals

jodiIn this IDEAS 2015 presentation, economist and author Jodi Beggs discusses the ways in which humans shape the “rational” economic world we inhabit in at times quite unexpected ways, offering her own unique introduction to the policy implications of behavioural economics with a little help from her cardboard Mr Spock!

Watching Shoppers

burkeIn an era of big data, mobile ethnography and neuroeconomics, the insights retailers can now gain into our shopping behaviour and the decisions we make is unparalleled in the history of marketing.  In this TED Talk from 2013, Ray Burke of the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, explores the increasing role of technology in the study of consumer choice, offering some fascinating insights into the way “Big Brother” is watching us as we wander around the supermarket.